El Paso County jail hits new record with 1,880 inmates

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The Criminal Justice Center: bursting at the seams. - COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
  • Courtesy El Paso County Sheriff's Office
  • The Criminal Justice Center: bursting at the seams.
This blog has been updated to add additional inmate information.

El Paso County's Criminal Justice Center hit a new high-water mark on Feb. 19, with a total inmate population fo 1,880. The last record high came in August of 2018 with 1,839.

Sheriff Bill Elder says in a news release, "These high numbers impact the safety of both staff and inmates as it increases the likelihood of fights and assaults within the jail.”

That's undoubtedly true, but there are other issues that also impact safety. For instance, staff  may be endangered when inmates are misclassified, as one inmate's father contended, saying he warned the jail that his son had mental issues but he was housed in a general population unit, rather than one designated for those with mental problems. His son has been charged with attacking jailers.



From the Sheriff's Office news release:
While the primary focus of the jail is to securely house inmates, one of the secondary focus is to equip and prepare inmates for post-detention life through inmate programs. This is one way our staff is working to lower the jail’s population by reducing recidivism in El Paso County.

“I’m proud of the ways that my jail staff continuously works to maintain the safety of our inmate population. I am committed to working with members of the courts, other law enforcement agencies, and community leaders to find alternative solutions to the growing inmate population” says Sheriff Elder.
We asked the Sheriff's Office for how many inmates are being housed for felonies and misdemeanors and how many are male and female. Here's the response:

Felony population: 1,533
Misdemeanor population: 290
Male population: 1,523
Female population: 357

The jail's recidivism rate is 27.5%, which the Sheriff's Office says is well below the national average.

Programs to stem recidivism aren't new. One program that tried to keep inmates on their feet after their release involved signing them up for Medicaid and food assistance. That program is still in place, says Sheriff's Office spokesperson Natalie Sosa.



Elder's predecessor, Terry Maketa, who left   a three-term sheriff who, after leaving office was indicted on various criminal charges but was never convicted, installed numerous programs to combat recidivism in the jail.

From his 2014 annual report, his last, on the Sheriff's Office:

• In 2003, the Jail Mental Health Aftercare Program was adopted to prevent inmates who suffer from a mental health condition from returning to jail. This provided post-release case management and therapy. "The program has experienced significant success, significantly reducing the recidivism rate among this particular population."

• In 2007, the office developed the El Paso County Reintegration and Recovery Program, which targeted sentenced inmates and provided basic education, life skills, substance abuse prevention, anger management classes, vocational assessment and preparation, and work study programs. Early data indicate the program has been successful by reducing the recidivism rate, or return to custody, for this population from 65 percent to 21.90 percent and by reducing the
overall recidivism rate for the entire population to 58.78 percent. This program was grant-funded and was recognized by the National Criminal Justice Association and the National Association of County Organizations.

• The El Paso County Community Detox Facility, proposed by Sheriff Terry Maketa in February
2009, was the first community substance abuse and treatment facility in the state of Colorado
operated by a law enforcement agency. The facility was built using funds generated from
an Intergovernmental Services Agreement that the Sheriff’s Office had with Immigration and
Customs Enforcement for the housing of illegal immigrants awaiting deportation. Its operations were funded with money from the state, local hospitals, Pikes Peak United Way and Justice Advisory Grant Recovery Funds. As of 2014, the recidivism rate at the detox facility was 13.9 percent.

Detox services recently were farmed out to a provider based in Pueblo.

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